Barilla Plus Rotini

Barilla Plus Rotini with multi-grains, fiber and omega-3s moves pasta from just a starch to a food with excellent nutritional value.

By Hollis Ashman and Jacqueline Beckley, Consumer Understanding Editors

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Healthfulness: Pasta has had its healthy halo damaged in the past few years. The industry needs to remind consumers of the slow-releasing effects of complex carbohydrates and pasta's higher protein and fiber content then other starches. There have not been overall health claims for the category.

One more trend worth noting is family size. Households with children have been consistent, high-volume consumers of pasta, and most pasta packages have been geared that way. Decreasing household sizes has impacted pasta consumption.

The pasta's tasters were pleasantly surprised; they found it fit well with typical family dinners.

The experience

Barilla Plus is available in six pasta shapes for a variety of recipe needs for $1.69-1.99. Each package is 16 oz. It requires a slightly longer cook time versus traditional pasta due to the ingredients. The package clearly identifies this requirement.

We tried the rotini shape. The package is a golden yellow with the Barilla logo, different from the deep blue of regular Barilla pasta, and has a clear window to show the shape of the pasta you are purchasing. There is a set of bursts "More Nutrition Naturally Delicious", "Made with Multi-grain," "Good Source of Fiber and Protein" and "Rich in Heart Healthy Omega-3."

The side panel features an interesting table comparing this pasta to chicken breast, ground beef, milk, egg, spinach, broccoli, salmon and shrimp on the basis of protein, fat, fiber and omega-3. The table clearly shows the high nutritional value of this pasta against those other foods. The back panel links the multi-grains to fiber, legumes to protein and fiber and ground flaxseed to omega-3s, along with the structure function claims each of these ingredients can offer.

Texture and flavor are critical to the perception of quality of pasta. Uncooked, this looks like regular pasta. There is a faint, unfamiliar odor generated in the kitchen when boiling the noodles. The flavor is heartier than refined flour pasta but still mild, even with the ingredients one might think would give a stronger flavor profile. There is a clean finish, unlike early versions of whole-wheat pasta. The flavor profile allows a good fit with a center-of-the-plate entrée or alone under a sauce.

The texture is consistent and al dente/tender. Our tasters were surprised: They had expected an unusual array of off-flavor notes, yet found this pasta fit well with typical family dinners. The pasta enabled them to feel better about serving pasta to their families. It allowed them to feel that even a meatless pasta meal could be rich in protein and fiber benefits.

A 2-oz. serving provides 1 g of fat, 25 g of sodium, 10 g of protein, 4 g of fiber and only 200 calories. These features allow the claim of two times the fiber and 40 percent more protein than traditional pasta. The familiar comfort meal for the family can now be easily transformed into a meal providing significant health benefits. And nobody needs to know!

Does the product deliver?

The Barilla brand stands for quality and family with products dedicated to developing, creating and sharing delicious, wholesome food with the "global neighborhood." The company is still family-owned and -run. This product is about satisfying family needs and providing a healthy foundation for a nutritionally balanced meal.

Creating traditional and familiar foods while meeting the needs of today is an accomplishment. This product allows the family to eat more nutritiously without changing things too much. While priced more than commodity pasta, this is an affordable alternative to many.

How to make the idea bigger

This product is competing with other pastas and starches. Most consumers are unaware of the health benefits of pastas, and Barilla Plus more than delivers. Fundamentally this is a great nutritionally dense product that fits contemporary consumer lifestyles.

In order to consider how the idea might be bigger, the question may be related to how much consumers are willing to pay for this product's benefits. If consumers consider how easily similar food products fit their lifestyles, they will see more convenient options, such as Lipton side dish pouched noodles and those bagged, microwaveable rices. The amount of time this takes to cook is a bit long. Creating a quicker-cooking version could even translate this product into a healthy snack food.

Rating: Barilla Plus delivers on its promises. It fits traditional family-oriented, comfort meals and does not require consumers to change their behavior to gain the health benefits.

Market Potential: Good. This is a product that raises the bar on what is good and what is healthy. Barilla Plus makes it difficult for consumers to consider just plain pasta anymore. This will serve as a benchmark for others that will follow.

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